The days of chimpanzees as test subjects for federally funded research may be drawing to a close. In a report released this week, a committee within the National Institutes of Health's Council of Councils has advised that the government limit the use of chimps in biomedical research.
The advisory committee was commissioned after a 2011 report declared most NIH research on chimps was scientifically unnecessary. Going forward, the advisory council recommends keeping 50 out of 451 chimpanzees currently being researched through NIH.
For any future research using the animals, the NIH report stipulated that lab living conditions should "promote the full range of natural chimpanzee behaviors," rather than simply "allow" them. As such, they recommended chimps live in social groups of at least 7 individuals, with 1,000 square feet of living space per chimp, room to climb and outdoor access year round.
Kathleen Conlee, vice president for animal research issues at the Humane Society of the United States, told the New York Times that no laboratory in the U.S. currently meets these standards. Per the recommendations, living conditions for NIH-supported chimps would need to meet the new criteria within five years.
But with so many animals being put into retirement, finding them a home will be a challenge. A total of 219 NIH-owned chimps are already retired, many at Chimp Haven, a nonprofit sanctuary in Louisiana. The sanctuary is running out of room.
"Currently there's no space there; there's no capacity," James Anderson, an NIH official, told NPR. There is a $30 million spending cap on the chimp sanctuary system, and the NIH is set to hit that cap this summer.
The recommendations will be available for 60 days before the director of NIH makes a decision on them in late March.
"...A report from the National Institutes of Health council recommends that the agency put out to pasture all but 50 of the chimpanzees it uses in research..."
NO MORE MONKEY BUSINESS!
Humans behaving Humanely!
Well done lads, well done!
Humane or not, chimps are waaay too expensive to be working with. Better to test drugs on fish, mice and cell cultures, then pay a bum $500 to take it (after signing an appropriate contract that would prevent a lawsuit, of course). I guarantee you that there won't be a lack of volunteers, and its only unethical if its forced...
A relevant question is how effective are animal trials in general? Not very. Due to the differences in physiology even among apes and humans, ape studies only have around a 50% success rate in weeding out drugs harmful to humans before human trials. Ape studies are about as useful as flipping a coin to decide what drug to test next on humans. You can imagine then how useful rodents are for drug testing, much less non-mammals.
@Moose2823 Taking advantage of the disadvantaged, even with their permission, is still immoral under most people's codes. You are right though: apes are expensive upkeep.
bbu -- just a point that I got from someone involved in drug research. The testing process uses a series of animal species -- each one providing a little more info. Ensuring human safety to the max possible is not easy.
Also, I'm not sure that this proposal only addresses drug research.